I’ve worked in HR, primarily organisational and people development, for 25 years now. One of the very first things I remember doing as a fresh faced graduate trainee, was sitting in on outplacement training for a group of staff whose jobs were being outsourced. That early experience has stuck with me.
One of the things that I am proudest of in my career to date, is that in my last job, I helped support hundreds of people whose jobs were at risk because of major and ongoing change and restructuring.
This was a big issue for me, it seemed like people had got forgotten in the planning and had become just numbers. I fought hard (harder than I should have had to) to get approval, funding, and time for the support that was needed. I nearly gave up on a couple of occasions, after frustrating and fruitless meetings with senior management, but I knew it was the right thing to do and kept going.
Some of those people attended training sessions, some I met for interview coaching, and some were in longer coaching programmes.
The restructuring impacted in many different ways. Some people had to apply for their own job; some were in a pool of people, competing against colleagues for a smaller number of roles; some had their jobs downgraded; some people were applying for promotion; some had been unsuccessful at an interview; some people’s role no longer existed.
And eventually, I experienced it too, with merging departments, my role fundamentally changing, expected to compete against a close colleague for one job, communications and timescales constantly changing.
This advice is based on that experience. It doesn’t cover everything but it’s what I learned were the most important things for people in that situation.
Dealing with the prospect of redundancy is tough, even without the additional worries of the global pandemic that we face now.
So much of this type of process is out of our control and it is easy to worry and get fixated on things we cannot influence or change. So this is also about helping you to take back a bit of control and work out what you want.
1. Get to grips with your finances
This is most people’s biggest worry. Will I have enough to pay the bills? How will I survive if the worst comes to the worst?
So that’s why I would suggest starting here and getting prepared for that worst case scenario.
In the UK, if you have worked for your employer for at least 2 years you have the legal right to redundancy pay. There is a statutory minimum, but some employers are more generous. Find out what you will be entitled to. You can get more information about statutory redundancy payment here https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/redundancy-pay. You can also get information there about any benefits that you may be entitled to.
Then sit down, work out your expenses and see what you might be able to cut, if needs be. Use the advice and guidance on sites like https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/ or https://www.adviceni.net/advice/debt. Maybe you have some money set aside for a rainy day. If you haven’t, use any consultation or notice periods to build up what you can.
Preparing for the worst case scenario and knowing that you can survive it, gives you room to breathe. It’s really easy to talk about seeing redundancy as an opportunity and much more difficult to put into practice. But if you know that you have the finances in place to give you some time, it’s much easier to adopt that perspective and use the situation to think about your next career move.
2. Understand your rights
In the UK, your employer must follow procedures, required under employment law. Read through your organisation’s redundancy policy. Attend company briefings, ask any questions that you have.
If you are a member of a Union, check out their advice and guidance and the support they have available. Make sure that you understand your organisation’s policies, procedures and timelines.
If you think there is an issue or want further guidance, good sources of information are available through ACAS https://www.acas.org.uk/your-rights-during-redundancy and the Labour Relations Agency here in Northern Ireland https://www.lra.org.uk/ending-employment
3. Skills & experience audit
If you have been in your job for a while, it’s easy to underestimate your transferable skills and what you do, and even forget about some of the things that you have achieved. It’s a generalisation but one that I have found widely true — most of us aren’t good at highlighting what we do, recording our achievements and promoting our own worth.
When I have been supporting people with this, so many people start off by saying “I just…” and then go on to downplay what they do and what they have achieved.
So, think about the projects and work that you have been involved in. Get a blank page and start writing them down. Focus on outcomes, improvements, how you have worked with others, led teams or influenced others (even if not in a management role), used your own initiative, made decisions, resolved conflict, solved problems, motivated or trained others, developed strategy, communicated with others. Create a list that works for you and your experience.
As you write, it’s amazing what will come back to you. You’ll see your achievements down on paper and you’ll start to appreciate your skills and abilities. Look at it and be proud of what you have achieved and what you can bring to a new employer. Start to think of yourself as an asset to a new organisation, one that brings a wealth of experience and knowledge.
This might seem strange, at such a worrying time. But get that blank piece of paper again, and this time start to think about what your ideal job would look like. Think about what you love doing, what you are good at and create that ideal job description
If you could look ahead in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, where do you want to be, what do you want to be doing. Don’t constrain yourself, really take the time to imagine yourself in the future and what that ideal job would be like.
I’m not a great believer in vision boards and the law of attraction, but I do believe in neuroscience. So many of us don’t take time out to plan what we do want, instead worrying about what we don’t want. By really developing an idea or a picture of what we want, we are helping our brain to focus on that instead, helping us to move toward that situation. You’ll see opportunities that you might have missed before and be readier to take them to help you get there.
5. Be proactive — look for opportunities
Reach out for help and support. Look for whatever may be available in your organisation; they may be offering training and outplacement support. Your role may be at risk but there may be other roles within the organisation.
Lots of universities and colleges are offering training to people whose jobs have been impacted as a result of the pandemic. Check out what’s available and see if it could help you. You can find a list of courses for Northern Ireland here https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/online-training-support
People will want to help. Reach out to your network, family & friends. Tell them that you are looking for new opportunities. Share with them the types of roles that you are interested in.
Use LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Research your area of work and talk to any employment agencies that may have relevant opportunities.
6. Mind your health
Make looking after your health a priority, both your physical and mental health. Schedule time in for those things that make you feel better and include some type of physical exercise, even if it’s only a ten minute walk. It’s easy to drop our good habits when we are stressed and reach for that bar of chocolate or glass of wine instead. Keep things in moderation.
Talk to people about how you are feeling. Your organisation may offer coaching or counselling to support staff at risk of redundancy. Use it, or look for external support if you think that it would help you. Share with family and friends if you are starting to feel a bit down.
Make time for things that you enjoy. Watch something funny, play with your children, laugh, relax. Spend time doing something that takes your full attention. Make sure that you are getting enough rest and sleep. Focus on what you have to be grateful for.
I hope that these tips have been helpful.
Remember that this is temporary and that your job, whilst important, is not your full life. We are all so much more.
Working with people in my last role, I saw some people who let this experience take over their life and just couldn’t, or wouldn’t, move on. And I saw others, the majority of people, who even though things were very difficult at times, were able to grow and flourish, in new roles and new careers.
Focus on being in that majority. Look back in a year and see what new chapter this experience has opened up for you.